Friday, 11 May 2012

Forgotten Book - The Verdict of You All

Henry Wade’s debut novel, The Verdict of You All, is my choice for today’s Forgotten Book. It was first published in 1926 (or perhaps 1927 – sources vary) and it marked the start of a career in crime writing that was to last for thirty years. I’ve long believed that Wade has never received his due as a novelist, and I’m glad that the era of blogs and social networking has revealed that other fans take a similar view.

By any standards that we can fairly apply to Golden Age mysteries, this is a very good book, and for a first novel it’s truly exceptional. It combines a wide range of elements, perhaps most notably sound police procedure and a good trial scene, but the final ironic twist is worthy of Anthony Berkeley or Richard Hull.

A point I’d like to make about Wade’s writing is that it was distinguished by a warmth and humanity that is absent from many Golden Age mysteries. Wade was, in real life, almost a caricature of the conventional “officer and gentleman”, a soldier, high sheriff, and baronet who wrote a history of the Foot Guards. But he also had an understanding of people that wasn’t confined to his own class. You get the impressione consistently in his work of a thoroughly decent man.

That being so, I suppose I must add that, in straining for a very clever resolution to his mystery, Wade took one or two liberties with his characters that didn’t ring quite true. With most Golden Age writers and books, this was par for the course, and wouldn’t be an issue – I only mention it because Wade achieved such a high standard, that he has to be judged quite strictly. Overall, though, my verdict is that this is a first rate mystery that deserves to be resurrected. It has stood the test of time.